But if not two stores down from the Kids Foot Locker, where?

If not from an adolescent who watched an eight-minute instructional video, who?

Fear not, good parent! There are other piercing options. Some doctor’s offices offer the service. A better choice than the mall, but — get real — those medical nerds aren’t experts in the field.

The experts don’t have multiple doctorates, they have multiple piercings. Their shirts are rolled up to reveal a complex and colorful sleeve of ink that tells a life story; sometimes that story involves a Mugwai. They’re not teenagers and they’re definitely not in the medical profession. They’re tattoo artists and professional piercers.

It may sound odd or even irresponsible to bring your innocent little lamb into this den of alleged miscreants and ne’er-do-wells, but tattoo parlors are the best place to get your child’s ears pierced. Also, quit being so judgy, jerkface.

Ears pierced by a professional with standards

A good tattoo parlor is maintained to exacting standards: cleanliness is paramount. Tattoo artists are well-trained and go through a certification process. The piercing needle they use is safer than a gun because it’s sharper and, unlike the gun, can be sterilized. A tattoo artist’s business is built on his reputation and his reputation is his business.

In other words, unlike the kid at Claire’s, he actually gives a shit. As far as piercings goes, anything goes. Professional piercers have done noses, tongues, nipples and scrotums — oh, my! Your kid’s ears are a cakewalk by comparison.

Last weekend, I took my daughter to get her ears pierced at Artisanal Tattoo in Somerville, N.J. The place felt like a doctor’s office, but way cooler. The whole experience was fantastic. As we were walking in, Penny and I joked about the unicorn tattoo I would get … only to find out someone was actually getting a unicorn tattoo at that moment! I’m pretty sure it was a sign.

After a couple minutes in the waiting room, flipping through tattoo ideas that I’ll never get but kind of want, the piercer came to get us and bring us to his partitioned office. He explained the process to Penny and took his time making sure the earring placement, marked with a drop of ink, was just right. He held her ear with a surgical-looking tool, slid the needle through, and put in her new earrings. She said it felt like a pinch and was proud of herself, because the old pro told her she was braver than some grown men he’d seen. He even had a stack of juice boxes for recovery and gave Penny one. I’d write more about the process, but that was it. Super simple, sterile and professional. And, yeah, pretty  cool.

A version of this first appeared on Amateur Idiot / Professional Dad.